Washington Redskins’ Business Unlikely To Suffer From Trademark Loss
What the Obama administration did today was attempt to steal the property rights of a private business on a whim. It’s not right and very un-American. Josef Stalin would be very proud.
Forbes reports the United States government ruled on Wednesday that the Washington Redskins no longer have the right to trademark their name.
In a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Patent Office ruled that the name was “disparaging” to Native Americans (other terms that can be evoked are “scandalous,” “contemptuous” and “disreputable).” The team says it will appeal the decision.
What the decision means, in practical terms: the Redskins aren’t required to change their name, but will no longer have the presumption of ownership of it under trademark law. That would seem to deal a blow to the club’s efforts going forward to prevent third parties from utilizing its name and logo to make money without forging agreements with the Redskins to compensate them.
Experts, though, are quick to point out that business ramifications could be minimal. Even without trademark protection, the club can make a strong argument for presumptive ownership through common law based on their longtime use of the name, which dates back to 1933. “They didn’t surrender their common law trademark rights,” says Mark Sommers, a trademark attorney with Finnegan in Washington, D.C. Think of a common law marriage, where long term couples are still subject to alimony and other legalities even if they never legally married. With product names and logos, common law is largely rooted in consumer protection, the idea being that “you don’t want the public to be confused as to the origin of the name,” says Sommers, who believes the Redskins would have a strong common law case.
Origianlly posted at The Last Tradition
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